IDF soldier Eran Nagauker, who is accused of playing a part in Niv Asraf's alleged kidnapping hoax in the West Bank, said after his release from police custody on Monday that he only wanted to help a friend in need, and that they did not plan to stage an abduction.
"I want to ask forgiveness from the Defense Ministry, the police, and anyone else we wronged," Nagauker said Monday. "I didn't know it would lead to soldiers staying (at their bases) for the holiday and being called for reserve duty. I feel uneasy about what I did, I'm asking for the soldiers' forgiveness."
Nagauker said the situation he found himself in was for him to either help his friend, or lose him. "He was in a very serious situation. Critical. I saw the distress in his eyes. It was purely to save him. It wasn't planned. We didn't sit and discuss this. It's something he came up with in the moment - for him to disappear. The story was blown out of proportion," he told reporters.
Nagauker claimed he approached a policeman in the area and told him Asraf was missing. "I never called the police. I just saw a policeman and turned to him. I told him I couldn't find my friend."
"He (Asraf) told me he needed his peace and quiet," Nagauker said. "We got to Kiryat Arba, we sat down to eat, and then he got the idea that he wanted to disappear. To get rid of some of the mess he's in. I'm sure he got to this situation because he had too much on his mind. I helped him but I was against him disappearing and worrying his family and those around him."
Nagauker claimed he did not know about the manhunt launched for his friend. "We sat in the interrogation room for close to eight hours and I didn't know what was happening outside... If I had said where he was, Niv might've done something because of his situation. I feared for his life. This is a friend I know from high school. I was just trying to help him."
Nagauker added that "after I saw the mess and that half the army was searching for him, I just told them where he was. We left the interrogation room, got into a jeep, went to that place, and that's it. It was dark and he was asleep."
Attorney Einav Chimi, one of Nagauker's lawyers, said, "This was highly-publicized in the media. The people of Israel were presented with a false portrayal of two youths who were allegedly trying to get attention and staging a kidnapping. This never happened."
Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Monday ordered the conditional release of Asraf and Nagauker, who were arrested after Asraf was found.
They are suspected of conspiracy to commit a crime, fabricating evidence, obstruction of justice, disturbing the peace and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.
Judge Chen Avital ruled that each will be required to deposit NIS 3,000 in cash and sign a bail agreement of NIS 10,000.
According to police, Asraf and Nagauker have given contradictory accounts of what led to Asraf's disappearance.
"This morning, Nagauker still claimed they did it because Niv wanted to get back together with his girlfriend, and threatened to kill himself," an official in the Judea and Samaria Police Department told Ynet.
"On Thursday morning they were both sitting in the same vehicle and were talking, and it's strange they're saying different things... someone lied and is continuing to lie," the official added.
Asraf's claim that he accumulated massive gambling debts and was being blackmailed by criminals was first made only after he was arrested and interrogated, the police said.
Police also said Asraf was not approached to become an undercover police agent, as he claimed he was. Police was checking whether Asraf offered himself as a police informant.
"A man who is being threatened doesn't run to the media to talk about it on TV, because a day after his release there'll be a bomb planted in his car," the official said. "Asraf is trying to find a way out of the situation he found himself in. His claims are far-fetched, to say the least."
A spokesman for the Negev District Police denied the "baseless" claims that Asraf had complained about being threatened multiple times.